In the last week, the company has turned more acrimonious in its negotiations with the Guild. The company continues to demand a 15% wage cut in the first year of the contract, followed by a 5% cut the second year and 5% cut the third year. They still insist on eliminating retiree health care and they are demanding huge concessions on seniority.
We are now meeting twice a week with the company and a federal mediator is sitting in on negotiations. Things have gotten more serious.
Despite numerous tentative agreements, roughly a dozen on various individual items in the contract, we are concerned that the company may soon move to declare impasse. This belief is based on a number of thinly-veiled threats the company has issued across the bargaining table.
Under federal law, if impasse is reached, the company could break off negotiations and make their “last, best and final” offer. The Guild would bring that offer, as bad as it might be, to the members for a vote. This could all happen quickly, within weeks if the company moves aggressively.
It would be fair to assume the company’s final offer would include many of the above poisonous provisions but would also include freezing the pension plan, eliminating the 401-K contributions, and other bad deals for the members. Obviously, the Guild would not endorse the offer and it would likely be voted down by the members.
If their final offer is voted down, the company has two choices; return to the bargaining table and continue bargaining or impose the terms and conditions of their last, best and final offer.
If the company declares impasse, the Guild will file an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The Guild believes we are far from impasse. We have made steady progress through negotiations. The Guild has stated time and again at the bargaining table that we want to reach an agreement. And we do.
While we do not believe the company has a case for impasse, we could all end up working under imposed working conditions until the NLRB comes to a decision on our unfair labor practice charge.
A declaration of impasse by the company would allow the Guild to pursue a number of options to force the company back to the table. Those options include all forms of economic actions against the company. The Guild has laid the ground for a corporate campaign directed at the economic interests of Lee Enterprises. For strategic reasons we’d prefer not to reveal the details of the plan at this time.
The Guild continues to work diligently towards an agreement.
We want to paint a realistic picture of where we stand and what the stakes are. Now is the time to pay attention and get involved. This affects the future of all of us. More information will be released in a Ruffled Feather next week. We are also planning a unit meeting for later in February.
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